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The following success story was written by tutor and volunteer, Lisa Ann King Gehrke:
I want to share something wonderful, and positive, and heart-warming that I have been doing the last few months! I have been teaching English to this wonderful woman, Achini. I am her tutor and she is my learner, (through our local literacy council www.winlit.org ). But mainly, she has become my friend. She is an immigrant from Sri Lanka. When I started working with her last January, she was very shy and her English skills were very rudimentary. I meet with her weekly, and she is very smart and works hard and has learned so fast, the difference a few months has made is amazing. Yesterday, she was able to tell me about how, and why, she and her husband and 3 young daughters left their family and homeland to come to this country. It was for the much greater education opportunities for their daughters, and they earned green cards through a lottery system. Their native language is Sinhalese, which has a different script and alphabet than English, and they are Buddhist. She was telling me about how they celebrate the full moon each month. Their country has a Christian population and her family observes Christmas, (her daughters like the tree and the lights), but she thinks our Thanksgiving is kind of strange, LOL. Achini is a wonderful cook and we often talk about food, and the other photo is a wonderful, spicy dinner she made for us recently.
It has been a gift to me to spend time with a person from another part of the world who is a woman, wife and mother, just like me.
If you can read this sentence, then you can help! Why not start off 2018 with an exciting, new volunteer opportunity? The Winnebago County Literacy Council (WCLC) is seeking volunteer tutors to help with a growing list of adult and adolescent learners who want to improve their literacy skills. We currently have many learners who are eager to begin receiving English language support. The tutoring time commitment is a minimum of one hour, once a week.
If you would like to help, there are five upcoming volunteer orientation times through the winter/spring to learn more about how you can help our learners. Below are the following days and times for our “Volunteer Foundations” courses :
- Tuesday, January 9th, 5:00 — 7:00 PM
- Friday, February 16th, 10:00 AM — 12:00 PM
- Tuesday, March 13th, 5:00 — 7:00 PM
- Friday, April 13th, 10:00 AM — 12:00 PM
- Tuesday, May 8th, 5:00 — 7:00 PM
“Foundations” will include information about the WCLC, as well as training to understand the different types of learners, tutoring basics, and cultural considerations. These points of discussion prepare tutors to be learner-centered and matched with a learner quickly. “Foundations” takes place on the third floor of the Oshkosh Public Library, 106 Washington Avenue, Oshkosh, WI 54901. To register, call 920.236.5219 ext. 4802, or contact Angie Fralish at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks to our wonderful partnership with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC), the WCLC has the opportunity to offer one-to-one tutoring to some of their middle school and high school attendees. We are eagerly searching for volunteers who are interested in this exciting opportunity to become a positive role model in these children/teens’ lives! This is an opportunity for both new and returning volunteers. Please see the following from our Education Coordinator, Julia Frascona:
“I have been interviewing the BGC kids so we can make the perfect tutor match. What I am learning about these young lives is sobering at best. It seems that all the girls want female tutors and the boys want males. All the kids are adorable.
Tutoring high school and middle school learners is all about making a connection and finding positive ways to experience the printed word. No worries! You will not tutor in algebra or chemistry. You might help with organization or showing your learner how to use the library for a research project. We focus on the primary interests of the learners and help them discover more about those interests using the printed word.
We require a one hour workshop about working with adolescents prior to the first session with your learner. BGC tutoring takes place at the library. Each session is one hour any weekday after school. The day and time are determined by you, BGC, and the learner’s after school schedule.
If you would like to be a part of this wonderful opportunity, or at least learn more about what it entails, please contact Julia at (920) 236-5219 ext. 4830 or at Frascona@winlit.org.
David and Wayne play games to build Wayne’s reading and writing skills. Recently when they met together they played Brain Quest. David says Wayne has an endless supply of jokes, facts, and stories. “He teaches me more than I teach him,” David said.
Wayne enjoys science. Books about science are his favorite. Outside reading, Wayne likes shows about aliens.
David works with Wayne one day at a time. They focus on what is going on in his life and what he may need assistance with. For example, David has taught Wayne how to pay his bills. Now Wayne can do it on his own. Both men have diabetes so their time is a great opportunity to read labels together, too.
“Wayne is doing very well!” David said.
Andrew and Tony have been meeting together for about a year and a half. Andrew has seen improvement in Tony since they first started. Tony’s biggest goal is to be able to read to his 3-year old daughter, so Andrew and Tony are working on phonics, spelling, and words.
Andrew says being a tutor is very rewarding. He gets to give back and learns a lot about the English language as he tutors Tony. Andrew would like to see Tony become more proficient to get an even better job someday. Tony is doing very well being as a host at his family’s restaurant. Andrew said he believes Tony’s confidence has greatly improved over time.
Gary has been a learner at the WCLC for over 10 years. This summer he is signed up for the summer reading program at the library. He loves to read about animals.
Gary works on his reading and math skills with David; he has his own math books and he learned how to use a calculator. David said that in the past year Gary has done very well on his reading and phonics, and he likes to keep Gary up to date and keep him practicing. Gary loves to read on his own and knows that practice is the best way to continue to learn.
Right now Gary works at Lakeside Packaging but wants a new job soon. His goal would be to work in a zoo because he loves animals. David and Gary have gone on field trips together to the zoo.
When conversation about refugees begins, it generally centers on safety and security. Less talked about – and just as, if not more important – are the benefits refugees bring to American communities, especially in terms of local economies. A June 2017 report by New American Economy examines exactly that.
On its website, New American Economy notes that it “brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today.” New American Economy members include the mayors of more than 35 million people and leaders of companies that “generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing.”
According to New American Economy, more than 3.4 million refugees have made the United States home since 1975. They pay taxes, purchase new homes, and even found businesses that create jobs. The 2017 report highlights multiple cities that owe some positive growth to refugee and immigrant communities: Bosnians in St. Louis, Somalis in Minneapolis, work-seeking refugees in Louisville who reinvigorated a slumping manufacturing economy.
New American Economy’s report, “From Struggle to Resilience,” is available here: http://www.newamericaneconomy.org/research/from-struggle-to-resilience-the-economic-impact-of-refugees-in-america/. Although the prevailing idea about refugees is how much they may cost to bring in, just a few minutes spent skimming the infographics and statistics, and it’s easy to see how refugees don’t strain local economies across the United States. Rather, refugees help sustain them.
Today – Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – is World Refugee Day. Take a moment to consider the numbers behind the world refugee crisis. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
- Each day, 28,300 people are forced to flee their home because of conflict and/or persecution.
- Approximately 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced, worldwide.
- There are 22.5 million refugees around the world.
- Ten million are stateless.
- Only 189,300 refugees were resettled in 2016.
- Of all refugees, 16 percent are hosted in the US.
From Beirut to Belarus to the Vatican City, people around the world are coming together to celebrate and recognize refugees. Recognize is one thing; celebrate is another. Why celebrate? Because of the incredible endurance and fearlessness it takes to leave home, journey elsewhere, and begin again somewhere new.
What can you do to show your support for refugees right now?
- Sign a petition like this one, Stand #With Refugees, then share it with your friends and family.
- Join local initiatives that have a hand in assisting refugees. In Oshkosh, consider learning more about:
- World Relief Fox Valley: According to a recent Northwestern article, World Relief Fox Valley has been hard at work since the late 1990s. The agency helps refugees with “finding work, setting up bank accounts, enrolling children in school, and assisting with legal services.”
- Oshkosh Area United Way: United Way organizations work to increase health, education, and financial stability within the community, including newly resettled refugees.
- And the Winnebago County Literacy Council (WCLC): Our work is rooted in helping language learners become self-sufficient and “realize his or her potential through literacy.”
- Contact state legislators to let them know you care about refugees. See below for a complete list of phone numbers and mailing addresses for Wisconsin Congressional Representatives and Senators: Contact-Information-for-Wisc.-Congressional-Representatives-and-Senators.pdf
- Simply hear some of the harrowing stories of what it takes to leave home for the unknown with PBS Frontline’s “Exodus”
The plight of refugees around the world impacts you, and us, right here at home in the Fox Valley. When refugees arrive, we are enriched. Refugees can contribute to the overall diversity of our communities as with new and different cultures, languages, and views. Unfortunately, in January and again in March, two executive orders were signed severely limiting refugee entries. In terms of economics, the Fox Valley counts as an industrial hub with an excess of manufacturing jobs into the future. Needed is a workforce ready and willing to fill those jobs.
Refugees are eager to learn and work hard. At the core of WCLC’s mission is opportunity creation “for people to read, write, and speak English, and perform everyday skills with confidence.” Today and every day, WCLC stands #WithRefugees.
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The Oshkosh Area United Way believes in the Adult Tutoring, Family English Classes and the Road to Work efforts of the Winnebago County Literacy Council. When we all work together, individuals and families can achieve their highest potential.